DC Regulators Propose Government Licensing for Fitness Trainers

Published October 28, 2015

Local Washington, DC lawmakers are reconsidering proposed occupational licensing regulations for fitness trainers in the nation’s capital.

After the city’s Board of Physical Therapy voted to adopt rules requiring up to two years of formal education and training in order to be allowed to work as a fitness trainer, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) replaced the board’s chairman, Senora Simpson.

The Board of Physical Therapy now proposes requiring two years of formal education for new trainers, grandfathering in existing trainers.

Profit, Not Public Safety

Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow with The Heritage Foundation, says occupational licensing rules are more about tax revenue than public safety.

“Essentially, what’s happening is the DC City Council, like legislative bodies everywhere, is trying to nickel-and-dime the public rather than raise taxes,” Larkin said. “The DC City Council, and every legislative body out there, needs revenue, and government just gets more expensive as time goes by, simply due to inflation if nothing else. They look around at individuals or individual organizations or individual activities and they impose what is essentially a tax on them.”

Larkin says the proposed licensing requirements will make it harder for young people and low-income earners to start businesses.

“It will definitely stop people from being able to start their own personal training businesses,” Larkin said. “If what you say is, ‘Well, anybody can become a personal trainer; you just have to pay $50,’ then it’s really just a tax.

“But that’s not an effective way to create a cartel, and the people who are being regulated would rather have a cartel than just pay a tax,” Larkin said. “They’re going to persuade the City Council to impose requirements. … For example, you have to have some educational level, you have to have some level of experience, or you have to have been licensed somewhere else.”

Disparate Impact

Morris Kleiner, a public affairs professor at the University of Minnesota, says occupational licensing rules have a disparate impact on some demographic groups.

“Licensing places higher education and apprenticeships requirements to be able to legally work, which disproportionately impacts the poor and minorities,” Kleiner said.

Kleiner says the proposed regulations will probably increase the costs related to fitness classes in Washington, DC.

“[If full licensing of trainers is required], and if the market for trainers is similar to many other occupations, the number of trainers will decline, the requirements to become a trainer will increase, access to their services by clients will decline, and prices will go up,” Kleiner said. “Many occupations see licensing as a way to regulate the appropriate number of practitioners to maintain income and employment.”

Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.

Internet Info:

Aaron Edlin and Rebecca Haw, “Cartels By Another Name: Should Licensed Occupations Face Antitrust Scrutiny,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/cartels-another-name-should-licensed-occupations-face-antitrust-scrutiny/